April 29, 2010

In Support of a DREAM

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May 1 is celebrated around the world as International Day of Labor and several events will be held in Ithaca in honor of the day, including a march through Cornell Campus and a rally on the Commons in downtown Ithaca. Speakers will be talking on a variety of topics that impact students and the local community —  among them labor issues, immigrant rights and the DREAM Act. Students at Cornell, Ithaca College and across the nation will be rallying for the DREAM Act, which would give college students who were brought to this country when they were only children better access to higher education and to become eligible for legal residency status.

The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) has been introduced to Congress several times before and will likely be included in comprehensive immigration reform legislation. It is already part of the House bill, Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act (H.R. 4321), that is currently under consideration in the House of Representatives. The DREAM Act is also expected to be included in a Senate bill on comprehensive immigration reform that New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been working on. Advocates for reform have urged the senator to introduce the immigration bill by May 1st so that it has a chance of passing in 2010.

Across the country students have been rallying in support of their immigrant friends, who are in essence being punished for violations their parents committed. Many students who came to the United States as young children have never left this country, have never even visited the place from where their parents came from and have never known anything but life here in America. Many of them only speak English. Under the current law they can be deported from the United States, even though they had no control over coming here in the first place. Undocumented students also do not qualify for in-state tuition or federal financial aid, meaning college remains an illusive dream for many.

Under the DREAM Act, undocumented students who have graduated from a U.S. high school would be granted temporary visas for six years during which time they need to earn a college degree or serve in the U.S. military. If these conditions are met and if students have resided in the United States continually for five years, they would then be eligible for conditional permanent residency. The act would thus offer a path to legal status and eventually citizenship.

Across the nation support for the DREAM Act is building. On January 1, 2010 activists from Miami started a 1,500 mile march to Washington, D.C. to bring their stories to the attention of the nation. On April 10, several immigrant students from New York City embarked on their own journey, walking 250 miles to the nation’s capitol in pursuit of their educational dreams.

Partly in response to the lobbying efforts of student groups, President David Skorton has signed a letter to the U.S. Congress last week, urging representatives to pass the DREAM Act soon. The letter, which was also signed by eight other university presidents from New York State, was sent to the congressional delegation of New York, including Sen. Schumer. In the meantime Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), one of the sponsors of the DREAM Act of 2009, has urged President Obama to give an executive order to stop deportations of young people, who would become DREAM Act-eligible once the bill passes.

In Ithaca dreamers will be among those marching on May Day in celebration of International Day of Labor. During the march and rally, speakers will also talk about labor conditions for immigrant workers and workers in general. The march at Cornell starts at 2 p.m. at the Robert Purcell Community Center on North Campus, continues to Central Campus, Collegetown and finally to the Commons. The rally downtown starts around 3 p.m. with music, followed by speakers and a free concert from 4:30-6 p.m. The events are free and open to the public and all are welcome to attend.

Original Author: Ute Ritz-Deutch